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Originally published October 5, 2012 at 8:00 PM | Page modified October 6, 2012 at 10:04 AM

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Feeling a draft? Lots of options for window replacement

Are your windows leaking air? Are they getting more difficult to open? Is the wood frame rotting? New energy-efficient windows can make your home more comfortable in winter and summer, and more attractive.

The Associated Press

Choosing your windows

How much money you save depends upon the kinds of windows you replace, where you live, how well your house is insulated and house size.

You should consider the following things when choosing your new windows:

Cost: Prices can range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars depending upon the material, features and insulation.

Materials: Wood frames provide good insulation but are heavy and require maintenance. Vinyl frames insulate well and don’t need painting.

Style: Single and double-hung, and sliding windows leak more air than casement, awning and hopper windows.

Technology: Certain glazes and glass may provide better insulation, light and condensation resistance.

Installation: If your windows aren’t installed correctly, you may not get the savings or comfort you expect.

Federal Trade Commission

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Are your windows leaking air? Are they getting more difficult to open? Is the wood frame rotting?

Homeowners choose to replace their windowsfor a variety of reasons, from energy efficiency to aesthetics.

“It might be the seals have failed or the wood has rotted,’’ said Kerry Haglund, senior research fellow at the Center for Sustainable Building Research at the University of Minnesota.

Or homeowners might be looking to replace leaky windows to keep heat or air conditioning in, or they might want added UV protection to protect furniture from fading in the sunlight.

No matter what the motivation, new windows can be costly. “They’re too expensive to think you’re going to get your money back either in terms of energy savings or when you’re selling your house,’’ said Kit Selzer, a senior editor for Better Homes and Gardens.

Still, new energy-efficient windowscan make your home more comfortable in winter and summer, and more attractive. Haglund recommends choosing the most energy-efficient window you can.

The cost for a new window can range from hundreds of dollars to $1,000 or more, depending on the frame, style — double-hung or casement, for example — and whether you choose single-, double- or triple-pane glass. Decorative elements can add to the price.

A casement window might be a good option in windy areas, said Gary Pember, vice president of marketing for Simonton Windows.

“As the wind increases, they become more efficient because of the way they seal,’’ he said.

A double-hung that opens only from the top might be a good choice for someone looking for increased security, he said.

Older homeowners or those who think they’ll stay in their homes as they age might want to consider a window they don’t have to lift.

Frames come in wood, vinyl, aluminum and other materials.

Wood frames are more traditional but require regular painting.

“If you’re wanting something maintenance-free, you can’t get anything better than vinyl,’’ Pember said.

There are many options now for vinyl frames, including a variety of colors. You can also get a wood interior and a vinyl exterior.

Selzer said aluminum frames are more contemporary, but they also are more expensive.

Most windows sold today are double pane, although people in northern climates may choose a triple pane, Haglund said. “Single pane is still available in Southern climates, though we don’t recommend it.’’

Windows must meet an area’s building energy code, she said.

“Windows in the North are optimized to reduce heat loss in the winter, while windows in the South are optimized to reduce heat gain during the summer,’’ according to the government’s Energy Star website. “This explains why windows that are energy-efficient in Florida will not necessarily be energy-efficient in Michigan.’’

The Energy Star and National Fenestration Rating Councillabels can help you compare windows. Consumers may be most familiar with the U-factor, which tells you how much heat can escape through the window. The labels also include information on how much light and heat from the sun is transmitted through the window.

While Haglund urges home­owners not to scrimp on energy efficiency, she said there are other ways to save money short of full window replacement.

• A new window can be fitted into existing frames that are in good condition.

• Replace the sash — the part of the window that contains the glass. Again, this would only work if the frame is in good condition.

• Increase the energy efficiency of your existing ones: “Storm windows are certainly a good idea,’’ Selzer said.

• Use caulk or weatherstripping to seal any leaks around the frame.

• Hang insulating draperies or other window treatments also can help increase comfort.

“They’re so much more tailored and thinner than they used to be,’’ she said. “Old insulating treatments were very bulky, like putting up blankets. Now, they’re certainly sleek and more effective.”

Insulating cellular shades provided the highest annual average return for the investment for a home in Portland in a case study released last week by the National Trust for Historic Preservation Green Lab.

The group suggested that home­owners try low-cost alternatives, such as installing weather stripping and interior surface films to removing old windows, which avoids the environmental impact associated with new windows production.